To Toast or Not to Toast?

 As a lover of all things “bubbly-drink”, the classic wedding toast remains a staple on my reception to-do list. However, I find more and more couples straying away from the toast because they don’t like sparkling wine, think it’s a waste of money, or find their guests would rather have a different beverage of choice. While I’d love to turn each reader into a bubbly lover like myself, my mission is to educate and empower you to make the wedding decision that is the best fit for you.

First, a short history lesson. Toasts (whether bubbly-fused or otherwise) are an opportunity for important wedding guests such as the best man, maid of honor, and bride’s parent(s) to recognize the couple with well wishes, cherished memories, and even a little poke of fun. So why the association with champagne? Historically, the tradition dates to Shakespearean times where guests would dunk stale toast into wine to remove acidity. That’s a far cry from where the tradition has landed today, but the options today are undeniably tastier.  

Second, let’s debunk a few misunderstandings about bubbles.

1.       “Champagne” does not include ALL sparkling wine. If a wine has bubbles (products of carbon dioxide), it is considered a “sparkling wine”. Champagne is a region of France where specific rules/laws are applied to the type of grapes grown/harvested and the processes used for making/aging sparkling wine. Sparkling wines from the Champagne region of France are the only wines recognized officially as Champagne. Here’s an easy saying I learned while getting Sommelier certified: “Champagne is always sparkling wine, but sparkling wine is not always champagne.”

2.       A champagne toast does not always have to break the bank. If you’re buying high-end champagne (again, from the Champagne region of France), then the cost will get pricey fairly quickly. If you’re open to other types of sparkling wines from different regions of the world, you’ll find a variety of selections at a friendly price.

3.       A cheaper bottle of bubbles does not always mean poor taste. There are different types of grapes that lend to a variety of flavor profiles in sparkling wines, proving that an affordable bottle doesn’t (always) compromise taste.

Next, let’s discuss your sparkling options. When it comes to sparkling wines, the most recognizable options include:

·       Champagne – Yes, the classic and specific-to-France bottled elegance. You’ll have a variety of selections from less to more sweet, and fruity to biscuity. Primary champagne tasting notes include: citrus, yellow apple, cream, almond, and toast.

·       Prosecco – This Italian sparkling wine is often a crowd pleaser. Combining a dry nature with light body and a bit more acidity, it packs a refreshing bite that goes well alone, or in a mimosa. Primary prosecco tasting notes include: green apple, honeydew, pear, lager, and cream.

·       Cava – This Spanish wine kicks up the acidity a bit, combining a dry nature with light body. In many ways, Cava matches the style and complexity of champagne with a more affordable price per bottle. Primary cava tasting notes include: quince, lime, yellow apple, chamomile, and almond.

·       Crémant – This is the French alternative to champagne – as they are made in regions outside of Champagne.  Similar to champagne, they feature a light body and high acidity. Primary crémant tasting notes include: lemon, peach, white cherry, almond, and toast.

·       Other Options – Domestic sparkling wines (American), Sekt (German/Austrian sparkling wine), and Cap Classique (South Africa) offer great flavor profiles with high acidity and light body at affordable prices.

So how do you choose? Ask yourself the following questions:

1.       What is my budget? Understanding how much you want to spend per bottle is a great start, and will determine the style of wines you should focus on.

2.       What flavor profile am I going for? Do you want something less or more sweet? Fruity or nutty? Whether a standalone toasting beverage or paired with a wedding menu, understanding the flavor profile you want will direct you to the type of sparkling wine you’ll purchase.

3.       What type of crowd will be at my wedding? Consider your guest list – do they like wine? Are they more beer or cocktail driven? This will help you determine if a simple crowd pleaser cava will overrule a pricey champagne selection for your celebration.

Looking for a little more detail? Check out these Wine Folly explanations and treat yourself to a taste test at home!

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